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Global Coronavirus Updates, 12 August: Switzerland to allow public gatherings from Oct 1; Russia to give medics anti-COVID shots in 2 weeks

Global Coronavirus Updates: As many as 12.5 million people have recovered from the disease.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi | Updated: August 12, 2020 8:49:05 pm
Global Coronavirus Updates, 12 August: New Zealand reports infections after over 100 days; More than 400 new cases in AustraliaA worker arranges face masks produced to protect against the coronavirus at a mask factory where U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar visited during an inspection tour in New Taipei City, Taiwan, Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. (AP Photo)

Coronavirus Global Updates: Over 20.34 million coronavirus cases have been reported across the world, with more than 7.4 lakh deaths, according to a Reuters tally. As many as 12.5 million people have recovered from the disease.

But not to worry, says Russia. President Vladmir Putin said he granted regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine after less than two months of human testing, although experts raised concerns as final trials were pending. The news has enthused Phillipine President, who lauded Russia’s efforts to develop a vaccine.

Meanwhile, Russia’s confirmed coronavirus case tally, the fourth largest in the world, rose to 902,701 on Wednesday after officials reported 5,102 new infections. Authorities said 129 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the official death toll to 15,260.

Not one to be left behind, the United States has entered into an agreement with Moderna Inc to acquire 100 million doses of its potential Covid-19 vaccine for around $1.5 billion. Johnson and Johnson could produce 1 billion doses of its potential Covid-19 vaccine next year if it proves successful.

Meanwhile, neighbour Mexico plans to conduct late-stage clinical trials for Covid-19 vaccines in development by US and Chinese companies, two of which might base some of their production in the country.

Here are the top news updates:

Switzerland plans to permit public gatherings from October 1

Switzerland plans to permit public gatherings of more than 1000 people at sports events and concerts starting October 1. Organisers will have to apply for permission and meet social distancing requirements.

Switzerland was one of the first countries in Europe to ban large scale events on February 28 to combat the coronavirus The Swiss government says any decision on whether to allow individual events will be up to Switzerlands 26 cantons states and depend on the local virus situation.

In a statement following its weekly Cabinet meeting, the Swiss government says this careful reopening step takes into account the needs of society and the economic interests of sports clubs and cultural venues…

China blasts US for Taiwan visit while virus spreads at home

A Chinese official lashed out at US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday for visiting Taiwan amid an ongoing pandemic back home, accusing him of putting politics ahead of the lives of the American people. The comments came a day after Azar accused China of failing to warn the rest of the world about the coronavirus.

“He abandoned the millions of people who are struggling with illness and visited Taiwan instead to stage a political show,” Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a daily briefing.

“We don’t know how he has the confidence and courage to shamelessly criticize China’s anti-epidemic achievements.”

Speaking Tuesday in Taiwan, Azar said that China’s ruling Communist Party “had the chance to warn the world and work with the world on battling the virus”. “But they chose not to, and the costs of that choice mount higher every day,” he said.

Russia rejects safety concerns; medics to get anti-COVID shots in 2 weeks

Russia has the first batch of its COVID-19 vaccine would be ready for some medics within two weeks and rejected as “groundless” safety concerns aired by some experts over Moscow’s rapid approval of the drug.

In this handout photo taken on Thursday, August 6, 2020, and provided by Russian Direct Investment Fund, a new vaccine is on display at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia. (Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP)

The vaccine has not yet completed its final trials. Only about 10 per cent of clinical trials are successful and some scientists fear Moscow may be putting national prestige before safety.

“It seems our foreign colleagues are sensing the specific competitive advantages of the Russian drug and are trying to express opinions that in our opinion are completely groundless,” Health Minister Mikhail Murashko said on Wednesday. He said the vaccine developed by Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute would be administered to people, including doctors, on a voluntary basis, and would be ready soon.

Germany worries as new daily COVID-19 cases hit 1,226

Germany’s Health Minister Jens Spahn expressed concern about the rising numbers of coronavirus infections in the country and called on his compatriots to adhere to social distancing and hygiene rules. He told Deutschlandfunk radio that the infections were driven by travelers returning from abroad but also people partying or getting together for family gatherings.

“This obviously — if we don’t all watch out now — can lead to a certain dynamic,” he said. Spahn reiterated appeals to wear masks, keep distance and not go overboard in social settings.

Germany’s Robert Koch-Institute, which tracks the coronavirus, registered 1,226 new infections on Wednesday. That’s the highest number since early May.

Singapore reports lowest daily COVID-19 case count in four months

Singapore Wednesday reported 42 new coronavirus cases, the lowest daily infection count in over four months, taking the total number of COVID-19 cases in the country to 55,395.

Among the new cases, 11 are imported infections who were placed on stay-home notice, said the Ministry of Health (MOH). The majority of the new cases are work permit holders currently under quarantine.

The last time when the daily infection count was below 40 in Singapore was on March 22 when 23 virus cases were reported.

Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate induces immune response in early-phase clinical trial: study

A COVID-19 vaccine candidate co-developed by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and the German biotech company BioNTech induces a “robust” immune response in healthy adults aged 18-55 years, according to an interim report of an early phase clinical trial, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday.

The researchers noted that BNT162b1 is an RNA vaccine that elicits an immune response by mimicking the mRNA molecule used by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 to build its infectious proteins.

According to the study the vaccine candidate is delivered intramuscularly, and enables human cells to produce proteins part of the SARS-CoV-2 receptor-binding domain, against which the immune system is trained to produce antibodies. They said such vaccines are generally considered safe and have facilitated the rapid development of vaccines against SARS-CoV-2.

Brussels making masks mandatory amid rising cases

Authorities in Brussels are introducing mandatory mask rules across the Belgian capital following a spike in cases.

Rudi Vervoorts’ office said Wednesday that the number of new infections in the city had reached Belgium’s red line of 50 per 100,000 inhabitants on average over the last seven days. A statement says the wearing of masks is from now on obligatory for all people aged 12 and over in all public places and in private places accessible to the public.

Belgium has one of the highest Covid-19 mortality rates per capita in the world. Around 10,000 people have died in a country with a population of some 115 million.

UK records deepest recession among top economies

The British economy has recorded the deepest coronavirus-related slump among the world’s leading industrial economies after official figures on Wednesday showed it shrinking by a fifth in the second quarter alone.

The 20.4% quarter-on-quarter drop in the April to June period is worse than anything since records began in 1955, the Office for National Statistics said. Following a 2.2% contraction in the first three months of the year, the UK economy is now in recession, commonly defined as two quarters of contraction.

Britain’s recession is deeper than those recorded by comparable economies in Europe, notably Germany, France and Italy, or that of the United States. The UK has the highest official coronavirus-related death toll in Europe with 46,611 deaths. The actual death toll is believed to be higher as the official dataset only incorporates those who have tested positive for COVID-19.

Indonesia death toll nears 6,000

Indonesia on Wednesday reported 1,942 new coronavirus cases, taking the total number of infections to 1,30,718, data from the government’s health ministry showed, Reuters reported.

At least 79 deaths were reported, taking the death toll to 5,903, the highest in Southeast Asia

Over 400 new cases in Australia

Australia’s Victoria reported 21 coronavirus-related deaths and 410 new cases on Wednesday from an outbreak in Melbourne that has prompted a strict lockdown, the Associated Press reported.

State Premier Daniel Andrews said 16 of the deaths were linked to aged-care facilities.

Meanwhile, three Melbourne vloggers were fined after posting videos showing them breaching nighttime curfew for a McDonald’s run, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reported. New South Wales recorded 18 new Covid-19 cases, including two connected with a private school cluster in Sydney.

People order food on the opening day of the first Beijing outlet of the U.S. fast food chain Shake Shack after an outbreak of coronavirus in Beijing, China August 12, 2020. (Reuters)

Singapore says most foreign workers can resume work 

Singapore’s government says most foreign workers can now resume work as their dormitories have been cleared of Covid-19 after months of lockdown and virus testing, the Associated Press reported.

People living in crowded dormitories formed the bulk of Singapore’s 55,353 cases. Only 27 deaths have been recorded in the city-state.

The Ministry of Manpower said in a statement late Tuesday that all the dormitories have been cleared, except for 17 standalone blocks serving as quarantine facilities.

It said all foreign workers living in dormitories have either tested recovered or tested as virus-free, except for 22,500 workers in isolation. The majority of them are now able to return to work, including 81 per cent of the 3,87,000 workers in construction, marine shipyard and process industries.

South Korea records 54 new coronavirus cases

South Korea reported 54 new cases of Covid-19 as health authorities scramble to stem virus transmissions amid increased social and leisure activities, the Associated Press reported. The country now has 14,714 infections, including 305 deaths. The Korea Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said 35 of the new cases were local transmissions, with all but three being reported from Seoul. The rest of the 19 cases were linked to international arrivals.

New Zealand considers freight as source of new coronavirus cluster

Global Coronavirus Updates, 12 August: New Zealand reports infections after over 100 days; More than 400 new cases in Australia Medical staff test residents of South Auckland at a pop up Covid-19 testing centre in the Otara Mall, in Auckland (AP Photo)

New Zealand officials are investigating the possibility that its first Covid-19 cases in over three months were imported by freight, as the country reimposed a lockdown on Wednesday, reported Reuters.

The discovery of four infected family members in Auckland led Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to swiftly reimpose tight restrictions on movement in New Zealand biggest city and travel limitations across the entire country.

The source of the outbreak has baffled health officials, who said they were confident that there were no local transmission of the virus in New Zealand for 102 days and that the family had not traveled overseas.

“We are working hard to put together pieces of the puzzle on how this family got infected,” said Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

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